How Kolten Wong – and Mariners – are looking to turn the page
Jun 27, 2023, 3:53 PM | Updated: 11:19 pm
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
The first half of the 2023 MLB season is one both Kolten Wong and his team, the Seattle Mariners, will mostly want to forget.
The 10th-year veteran has fallen short of expectations thus far in his first year in the American League after coming over from the Brewers in an offseason trade. And so have the Mariners, who enter a Tuesday night contest against the Washington Nationals with a 38-39 record, four games back of the nearest playoff spot.
Wong and the M’s have each been showing signs that they may be getting back on track, though.
Wong had his first multi-hit game in nearly two months and slugged his first home run of the season last week in a game against the Yankees, and he added an RBI double in a win Monday night over the Nats.
As for the Mariners, their offense has scored eight runs or more in three of their last five games as the lineup has been showing a better ability to string hits together.
“I think it’s been kind of trickling in ever since our last homestand,” Wong said of the Mariners’ offensive improvement when he joined Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob on Tuesday afternoon. “We had a really good homestand here, and then you go on the road and it wasn’t the greatest road trip, but I feel like we played some pretty decent ball. So it’s one of those things where you just got to continue to build on the momentum of the team.
“We understand that we haven’t played to our potential or to our expectations yet, but we know how good we are as a team, and that’s why there’s two halves to every season. We want to try and finish this first half strong going into the All-Star break, then come into the second half trying to make a push to make it to October.”
Wong has looked noticeably more confident in recent games, including on defense where he’s made multiple diving stops. He explained how he’s leaned on his experience in the big leagues – seven full seasons with St. Louis, two with Milwaukee – to try to bounce back from a dismal first two months in Seattle.
“I’ve been here before, you know. I’ve been in this league for nine years, it’s my 10th year, and you tend to understand that tough times like this come,” he said. “You play the game long enough, you’re gonna go through struggles, you’re gonna go through things because guys have books out on you for years and years and years so you tend to understand that sometimes they’re just gonna have your number. You know, there was a lot of moving parts for me this year coming into Seattle with the acquisition… my second child and just making a big move to a totally different division. So there’s just a learning curve that came with everything. But now it’s starting to warm up so the ball’s starting to fly and confidence is starting to get a little higher now.”
Wong has ceded a lot of playing time at second base to rookie José Caballero, who has impressed since coming up as a little-known prospect in April, and he says there are no sour grapes about that.
“You gotta tip your cap to Cabby. He came up here, man, he did his thing and he’s playing well,” Wong said. “He’s a young kid who is getting his opportunities and doing the best with it. So me and him, we have a good relationship. I try to help him whenever I can and keep him going because a thing that I learned in this game, for 162 games, you need everybody. You need all the guys to kind of be pulling on the same rope and doing whatever we can to get wins. And if he’s the guy that was going out there and getting us wins at the time, you know, I was trying to do what I could to be a good teammate and just push him to be the player that he can be.”
Caballero is far from the only young player the Mariners are relying upon, and Wong has a high opinion of what Seattle has in outfielders Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodríguez even though they too have had their struggles at times this year.
“It’s tough to ride the highs and lows in this game. You’ve got to really understand that the lows are gonna come – not as much as the highs – but you just got to ride the wave,” Wong said. “I think Jarred’s been doing a great job of that. Obviously he’s still young so the frustrations come on here and there, but man, the way he’s able to turn the page and go to a new game, it’s been cool to see. He’s gonna be a superstar. We all see it in here. And then to have him and Julio in the outfield, it’s a fun outfield to watch.”
Listen to the full Wyman and Bob interview with Seattle Mariners second baseman Kolten Wong in the podcast near the top of this post.
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